New Fluorine-free Foam Extinguishing Agent
Minimax switches thyssenkrupp Steel Europe Fire Protection Systems to Fluorine-free Foam Concentrate
In May, Minimax and its competence team ‘Steel’ carried out a series of tests with fluorine-free foam concentrate at MPA Dresden GmbH, an independent fire protection competence center. The reason for the efficacy tests, which were supervised by VdS Schadenverhütung GmbH, was conducted at the request of our customer thyssenkrupp Steel Europe AG to convert its extinguishing systems to a fluorine-free extinguishing foam. All the tests were successful, and VdS approved the use of the new, 1% fluorine-free foam extinguishing agent for the protection areas and system types concerned.
Time is of the essence: On April 8, 2020, the EU Regulation 2020/784 was passed, further restricting the use of PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid). Admittedly, firefighting foams are still considered to have a special status because every fire that can be prevented means that other, incalculable environmental damages are averted. The transitional period until July 4, 2025 still applies to fire extinguishing foams that are already filled in existing systems or mobile extinguishing equipment. From this date onwards, mixtures or products must not contain more than 25ppb (=μg/kg) of PFOA or a total of more than 1000ppb11 (=1ppm=1mg/kg) of all precursors. PFOA foams will no longer be allowed for educational purposes, and for testing only if there is a possibility of capturing all releases. As early as January 1, 2023, use will only be permitted at sites where all releases can be captured.
What needs to be done?
As a result, many operators are concerned about the future of their fire protection facilities and would like to see a switch to fluorine-free foams. However, a number of requirements has to be considered in terms of the switchover: The VdS recognition for the use of foam extinguishing agents in water extinguishing systems according to VdS CEA 4001 and VdS 2109 always refers to the recognized foam agent and defined applications. If the intended area of application (type of system / fire load) is not already covered by the proof of effectiveness from the acceptance procedure, additional proof of efficacy needs to be provided. In this case, the foam concentrate was already certified for risks associated with plastics. The testing has since been carried out for certain flammable liquids.
In May, Minimax conducted extinguishing tests for thyssenkrupp Steel Europe at MPA Dresden GmbH. The parties involved were VdS Schadenverhütung as the testing and certification institution, the risk manager, the foam agent manufacturer Dr. Sthamer, the operator, and Minimax with its competence team ‘Steel’ and the extinguishing system management ‘Water’.
The configuration of the tests was prepared at length and tailored to the specific application. For the tests, Minimax installed both a deluge system and a water mist suppression system matching the real conditions of the existing system in terms of sprinklers, operating pressures and distances to the fire object. The extinguishing of three selected flammable liquids was tested, each using water and foam extinguishing agents.
The effort was worthwhile: VdS approved the tested foam agent for use in the given types of systems in combination with the three examined flammable (hydraulic) liquids and for use in accordance with the protection concept as per VdS CEA 4001 (sprinkler systems), VdS 2109 (deluge systems) and VdS 2108 (low expansion foam extinguishing systems).
For Marcel Esper, Head of the Minimax competence team ‘Steel’, and Thorsten Gieseke, Minimax suppression system manager, the results of the extensive extinguishing tests are even more far-reaching: "Beyond the approval, we gained a lot of additional knowledge that we will take into account for the further procedure with fluorine-free foam agents." The competence team ‘Steel’ is the specialist for stationary fire protection in the steel industry, providing single-source support in the Ruhr region for the plants of thyssenkrupp Steel Europe AG, among others.
For thyssenkrupp Steel Europe AG, the switch to fluorine-free foam concentrate is a particular concern, both to ensure fire protection and, at the same time, to contribute even more to environmental and water protection. The fact that this can be achieved with comparatively little effort means enormous potential savings for the customer. Converting the plant would incur costs and, on the other hand, production would be impaired during conversion periods.